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Shapiro's sources, QAnon rising, and drop-box detectives

Plus, a $450M state tax cut for businesses is on the move.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
April 28, 2022
Shapiro's cash stash, Senate debates, QAnon club, box checks, corporate cut, bench warrant, and an Orange Street memoir. It's Thursday.
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Attorney General Josh Shapiro is the only Democrat running for governor of Pennsylvania and he's raised $18 million in the past 15 months — or more than all nine of his potential Republican opponents combined.

Spotlight PA dug into the sources of that windfall and found labor unions, a California megadonor, and philanthropists in states nationwide. 

This includes an array of unions and their parent affiliates that have given more than $3.7 million to Shapiro since the start of 2021. There are also billionaires like Thomas Hagen, board chair of Erie Indemnity Company, who gave Shapiro $500,000 in two separate donations last year, and Micheal Rubin, an owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, who contributed $250,000.

Shapiro's lack of competition in the primary is helping him to raise more money. It's letting him hold onto more, too. 

His cash balance was just over $16 million at the start of April. In contrast, the GOP candidates began the month with far less money on hand. Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain had the most available, with $1.7 million.

But the fundraising landscape is likely to change after May 17. 

THE CONTEXT: Large national groups such as the Democratic and Republican governors associations have yet to start pouring money into Pennsylvania, a key battleground in the 2022 midterm.

Another potential game-changer: so-called independent expenditures by people or groups who can’t coordinate with campaigns, but who can still spend money on television ads, mailers, and other materials.

The stakes are high. The person who wins the governor's office sets the state’s political and policy agenda and has the power to appoint cabinet members with broad authority, including election oversight.

Muhlenberg College political analyst Chris Borick said Democrats appear unlikely to win control of either legislative chamber this fall, meaning they are focusing their efforts on maintaining control of the executive branch, if for no other reason than to provide a check on the legislature's actions.

Spotlight PA has also published a money guide for the Republican candidates for governor. And don't forget: You have until Monday to register to vote in the May 17 primary. Check your status here.

We're SO CLOSE to unlocking a special $5,000 challenge grant from the Erie Community Foundation. Support Spotlight PA now and your gift will be DOUBLED — that means twice the support for vital local journalism.

We're at the finish line — will you put us over the top?

"Pennsylvania has been a big state for lower-income populations leaving for the Sunbelt for more jobs and opportunities over the past decade. While poverty has gone down, it hasn't correlated with wage growth."

Mike Shields, research director at the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, on the misleading nature of new poverty rate stats
» Your guide to the Democratic and GOP candidates for governor

» 5 takeaways from Spotlight PA's Republican gubernatorial debate

» A guide to the overlooked race for Pa. lieutenant governor

» Big donations to GOP guv hopefuls: Who gave and how much?

» Tell Spotlight PA what election coverage matters the most to you

Support Spotlight PA's public-service election and voting coverage now.
» PRIMARY PRIMER: Join us Thursday, May 5 at 6 p.m. via Zoom for a free Q&A on Pennsylvania's candidates for governor, how they plan to lead, and how to spot misinformation. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
Sky streaks in Jacobus, via PA Poster Patricia R. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
ON DEMAND: If you missed either or both of the U.S. Senate debates hosted by Spotlight PA and its founding members this week, we put together a roundup with videos of the Q&As and analysis from media outlets around the state. The candidates revealed areas of consensus but also important contrasts over three combined hours. On Wednesday, the GOP's gubernatorial frontrunners gathered for a highly anticipated debate hosted by ABC27 in Harrisburg. Capital-Star has a recap

QANON RISING: A frontrunner in the GOP race for governor spent last weekend at a far-right Christian conference in Gettysburg that was soaked in QAnon conspiracy theories. The Inquirer reports state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) and LG hopeful Teddy Daniels were both at the event, which included a video referencing child sacrifice, satanic cults, and labeling 9/11 as a false flag attack.

VOTE WATCH: Detectives in Lehigh County will be watching mail ballot drop boxes ahead of May's primary, WLVR reports, and prosecutions are possible for people who drop off other people's ballots — a violation of state law. District Attorney Jim Martin, a Republican, said such violations were numerous in the county last year but that there was no smoking gun to support allegations of fraud. Skeptics question the need for involving detectives as well as the legality of the move.

TAX BREAKS: Hundreds of millions of dollars in business profit tax cuts were passed by the state House this week, the AP reports. Gov. Tom Wolf expects a deal can be reached in the coming months. As it currently stands, the bill would reduce the corporate net income rate from 10% to 9% and then to 8% by 2025 if revenue is sufficient. That means $400 million to $450 million less tax revenue for the state annually. State Rep. Jessica Benham (D., Allegheny) was among 8 "no" votes.

KANE CASE: bench warrant has been issued for former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane weeks after her arrest on DUI charges. WNEP reports a Montgomery County judge says the DUI case puts Kane in violation of her probation from a previous conviction of perjury and official oppression. Spotlight PA reported Kane was charged with DUI after a car crash in her hometown of Scranton in March.

POLL RESULTS: WESA's Chris Potter sums up the findings of a new Monmouth University poll of Pennsylvania primary voters like this: "Dems are cohering around a candidate but not an ideology. On the GOP side it is the other way around — and Trump is not the glue you might expect."

MUSK HOUSE: As a UPenn student, new Twitter owner Elon Musk turned his house into a nightclub where he could be found playing video games alone in his room as guests filled the property. Musk, who was born into wealth and is now the world's richest person, said he used the proceeds to cover rent. Here's what experts think about his latest purchase.

FLU REPORTS: Bird flu is spreading in Pennsylvania and state officials are asking for the public's help. Sick or dead birds found in the wild should be reported to the Game Commission, while sick or dead domestic birds should be reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. TribLIVE has contact info for both and tips for avoiding transmission.

POST UP: President Joe Biden appointed pediatrician Ala Stanford of Philadelphia's Black Doctors Consortium to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region 3 office, which covers Delaware, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, per WHYY.

CUB REPORTER: Hilde Lysiak was eight when she responded to a lack of local news coverage in her hometown of Selinsgrove by creating a local news outlet of her own, the Orange Street News. Now 15 and living in Arizona, Hilde has written a memoir about the experience.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

*This week's theme: The five senses
Yesterday's answer: Auditory

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Beth T., Jim A., Ted W., Wendy A., Susan D., Mike B., Don H., Eddy Z., Barbara F., Vicki U., Bruce B., Mark O., Karen W., Diane P., Anne G., Susan N.-Z., Doris T., Bette G., Kenneth J., Joan S., John A., Michelle M., David S., Michelle T., Deb S., Deb N., Kimberly S., James B., Tish M., Elaine C., Elizabeth W., Elvino M., Connie K., Jude M., Linda F., George S., Dan W., Irene R., Barbara O., Dianne K., Nancy S., Bill S., Doris B., Mark C., Sandy B., Kim C., David W., Karen M., Joel S., Daniel M., Patricia M., Starr B., John F., and Pat B.
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